“Name on the trophy” the commentator boomed that night at the Nou Camp. It was all ours. United fans would be forgiven for feeling the same way about the Premiership at the start of this season. We’d seen off Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea the season before, leading the table from the beginning, Arsenal were a team of youngsters and had just got rid of their best player, and Liverpool had finished twenty points behind us, signing Torres, a striker who couldn’t even score a substantial amount in Spain, where players like Forlan score for fun.
In contrast, we’d added the talents of Hargreaves, Tevez, Nani and Anderson to our squad. It certainly did feel like a “name on the trophy” moment, but it was before the season had even begun. After three years of feeling self conscious and nervous in the pre-season, not wanting to believe the decline of Manchester United had begun, like the press and rival fans told us it had, we were back to our usual cocky selves.
Things haven’t gone entirely to plan though, however. Arsenal are flying high, as able to grind out results as they are playing great football, and seemingly not even aware Thierry Henry has gone. Liverpool are doing as badly as I expected they would, but no thanks to Torres, who has proved the doubters like me wrong. If only his manager could see that as well! To add to the list of things we would never predict, Chelsea appointing a halfwit ogre to take the place of the not so ‘special one’ certainly has to get a mention.
United didn’t have the start they’d dreamed of, losing on derby day and drawing to Portsmouth and Reading, but the self consciousness of years gone by didn’t return. Sure, there were a few blushes about our arrogance, when it appeared United weren’t the machine we thought they were going to be, but I’d like to think all reds knew we were going to turn things around. And that we have. I can’t quite believe we are within just two points of Arsenal after our unnerving start!
One man who has watched more of United than he would have liked is Mikael Silvestre, who has been cheering us on from the sidelines instead of playing on the field due to a knee injury. Silvestre played his last game for United back in September, being forced off before the end of the first half in our match against Everton. He is due to return in March, but in the meantime, has to take a backseat in United’s charge to retain their title.
Today, Silvestre talked about his shock to see Arsenal doing so well in the league, making it through to the half way stage and still at the summit. The man who was shown the read card with twenty minutes left to play, after headbutting Ljungberg in our 4-2 victory at Highbury, recognises the experience this young side has gathered already. “I am surprised to see Arsenal doing so well, like a lot of people simply because they are a young team,” Silvestre said. “They are young, but if look at them they all have good experience in the Premier League.”
However, Silvestre goes on to claim the lads have every confidence to retain their title, and take the Champions League with it. “We are again competing for the championship,” he said. “I think the club has done some great signings to improve the quality of the team, which gives us a lot of confidence to win the league again, and the Champions League.”
United or Arsenal? Who will be top come May?